A Bayesian AMS 14C chronology of the Classic Maya Center of Uxbenká, Belize

Brendan James Culleton, Keith M. Prufer, Douglas James Kennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Archaeologists require precise chronologies of cultural change to understand the nature and timing, and causes and effects, of ecological and social transformations. The Uxbenká Archaeological Project (UAP) has made chronology building a main goal, employing epigraphic data, artifact seriation, and high-precision AMS 14C dating. With more than 60 14C dates with measurement errors below ±25 14C yr, primarily on single charcoal specimens, Uxbenká may be the most intensively dated Classic Period site in the tropical Maya Lowlands. Here we take the next step, combining this rich chronometric dataset with associated stratigraphic information in OxCal's Bayesian framework to generate a high-resolution chronology of Uxbenká's early development and expansion in southern Belize. We show how archaeologists may take advantage of complex architectural stratigraphy to constrain broad calibrated ranges during the Classic Period, and to estimate dates for observed construction events that can not be directly dated (e.g., clearing/leveling plazas, laying plaster floors, renovating/rebuilding structural elements). Our analysis confirms the antiquity of the ceremonial Stela Plaza (Group A), where first construction is estimated between 60 cal BC and cal AD 220 and is associated with a Pre-Classic structure obscured by later construction and reorientation of the group to a N-S alignment ca. AD 150-310. The analysis also indicates initial leveling and construction at plaza Group B from cal AD 60-310 and Group D from cal AD 20-240, both earlier than previously assumed. Though Late Classic contexts are not as well represented by direct dates, architectural modifications are documented at all three plaza groups after AD 550, including the extensive plastering, laying paving stones, and construction of facades on existing structures. The resulting chronology revises our previous thinking on the mode of settlement and development of Classic Maya society at Uxbenká and indicates specific areas of investigation to elucidate events in the Late and Terminal Classic at the site, including political and social fragmentation and the abandonment of the urban core late in the Classic Period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1572-1586
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume39
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

Fingerprint

Belize
levelling
Group
event
cultural change
antiquity
fragmentation
artifact
Chronology
Classic Maya
cause
Classical Age
Leveling
Archaeologists

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

Cite this

Culleton, Brendan James ; Prufer, Keith M. ; Kennett, Douglas James. / A Bayesian AMS 14C chronology of the Classic Maya Center of Uxbenká, Belize. In: Journal of Archaeological Science. 2012 ; Vol. 39, No. 5. pp. 1572-1586.
@article{ef4131d495a94a598bd05a3c2aeda4ce,
title = "A Bayesian AMS 14C chronology of the Classic Maya Center of Uxbenk{\'a}, Belize",
abstract = "Archaeologists require precise chronologies of cultural change to understand the nature and timing, and causes and effects, of ecological and social transformations. The Uxbenk{\'a} Archaeological Project (UAP) has made chronology building a main goal, employing epigraphic data, artifact seriation, and high-precision AMS 14C dating. With more than 60 14C dates with measurement errors below ±25 14C yr, primarily on single charcoal specimens, Uxbenk{\'a} may be the most intensively dated Classic Period site in the tropical Maya Lowlands. Here we take the next step, combining this rich chronometric dataset with associated stratigraphic information in OxCal's Bayesian framework to generate a high-resolution chronology of Uxbenk{\'a}'s early development and expansion in southern Belize. We show how archaeologists may take advantage of complex architectural stratigraphy to constrain broad calibrated ranges during the Classic Period, and to estimate dates for observed construction events that can not be directly dated (e.g., clearing/leveling plazas, laying plaster floors, renovating/rebuilding structural elements). Our analysis confirms the antiquity of the ceremonial Stela Plaza (Group A), where first construction is estimated between 60 cal BC and cal AD 220 and is associated with a Pre-Classic structure obscured by later construction and reorientation of the group to a N-S alignment ca. AD 150-310. The analysis also indicates initial leveling and construction at plaza Group B from cal AD 60-310 and Group D from cal AD 20-240, both earlier than previously assumed. Though Late Classic contexts are not as well represented by direct dates, architectural modifications are documented at all three plaza groups after AD 550, including the extensive plastering, laying paving stones, and construction of facades on existing structures. The resulting chronology revises our previous thinking on the mode of settlement and development of Classic Maya society at Uxbenk{\'a} and indicates specific areas of investigation to elucidate events in the Late and Terminal Classic at the site, including political and social fragmentation and the abandonment of the urban core late in the Classic Period.",
author = "Culleton, {Brendan James} and Prufer, {Keith M.} and Kennett, {Douglas James}",
year = "2012",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1016/j.jas.2011.12.015",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "39",
pages = "1572--1586",
journal = "Journal of Archaeological Science",
issn = "0305-4403",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "5",

}

A Bayesian AMS 14C chronology of the Classic Maya Center of Uxbenká, Belize. / Culleton, Brendan James; Prufer, Keith M.; Kennett, Douglas James.

In: Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 39, No. 5, 01.01.2012, p. 1572-1586.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - A Bayesian AMS 14C chronology of the Classic Maya Center of Uxbenká, Belize

AU - Culleton, Brendan James

AU - Prufer, Keith M.

AU - Kennett, Douglas James

PY - 2012/1/1

Y1 - 2012/1/1

N2 - Archaeologists require precise chronologies of cultural change to understand the nature and timing, and causes and effects, of ecological and social transformations. The Uxbenká Archaeological Project (UAP) has made chronology building a main goal, employing epigraphic data, artifact seriation, and high-precision AMS 14C dating. With more than 60 14C dates with measurement errors below ±25 14C yr, primarily on single charcoal specimens, Uxbenká may be the most intensively dated Classic Period site in the tropical Maya Lowlands. Here we take the next step, combining this rich chronometric dataset with associated stratigraphic information in OxCal's Bayesian framework to generate a high-resolution chronology of Uxbenká's early development and expansion in southern Belize. We show how archaeologists may take advantage of complex architectural stratigraphy to constrain broad calibrated ranges during the Classic Period, and to estimate dates for observed construction events that can not be directly dated (e.g., clearing/leveling plazas, laying plaster floors, renovating/rebuilding structural elements). Our analysis confirms the antiquity of the ceremonial Stela Plaza (Group A), where first construction is estimated between 60 cal BC and cal AD 220 and is associated with a Pre-Classic structure obscured by later construction and reorientation of the group to a N-S alignment ca. AD 150-310. The analysis also indicates initial leveling and construction at plaza Group B from cal AD 60-310 and Group D from cal AD 20-240, both earlier than previously assumed. Though Late Classic contexts are not as well represented by direct dates, architectural modifications are documented at all three plaza groups after AD 550, including the extensive plastering, laying paving stones, and construction of facades on existing structures. The resulting chronology revises our previous thinking on the mode of settlement and development of Classic Maya society at Uxbenká and indicates specific areas of investigation to elucidate events in the Late and Terminal Classic at the site, including political and social fragmentation and the abandonment of the urban core late in the Classic Period.

AB - Archaeologists require precise chronologies of cultural change to understand the nature and timing, and causes and effects, of ecological and social transformations. The Uxbenká Archaeological Project (UAP) has made chronology building a main goal, employing epigraphic data, artifact seriation, and high-precision AMS 14C dating. With more than 60 14C dates with measurement errors below ±25 14C yr, primarily on single charcoal specimens, Uxbenká may be the most intensively dated Classic Period site in the tropical Maya Lowlands. Here we take the next step, combining this rich chronometric dataset with associated stratigraphic information in OxCal's Bayesian framework to generate a high-resolution chronology of Uxbenká's early development and expansion in southern Belize. We show how archaeologists may take advantage of complex architectural stratigraphy to constrain broad calibrated ranges during the Classic Period, and to estimate dates for observed construction events that can not be directly dated (e.g., clearing/leveling plazas, laying plaster floors, renovating/rebuilding structural elements). Our analysis confirms the antiquity of the ceremonial Stela Plaza (Group A), where first construction is estimated between 60 cal BC and cal AD 220 and is associated with a Pre-Classic structure obscured by later construction and reorientation of the group to a N-S alignment ca. AD 150-310. The analysis also indicates initial leveling and construction at plaza Group B from cal AD 60-310 and Group D from cal AD 20-240, both earlier than previously assumed. Though Late Classic contexts are not as well represented by direct dates, architectural modifications are documented at all three plaza groups after AD 550, including the extensive plastering, laying paving stones, and construction of facades on existing structures. The resulting chronology revises our previous thinking on the mode of settlement and development of Classic Maya society at Uxbenká and indicates specific areas of investigation to elucidate events in the Late and Terminal Classic at the site, including political and social fragmentation and the abandonment of the urban core late in the Classic Period.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84857115006&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84857115006&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.jas.2011.12.015

DO - 10.1016/j.jas.2011.12.015

M3 - Article

VL - 39

SP - 1572

EP - 1586

JO - Journal of Archaeological Science

JF - Journal of Archaeological Science

SN - 0305-4403

IS - 5

ER -